Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Reading Habit

By Kevin Eikenberry  

Most people wish they read more. It is an activity that is both fun and enlightening. It can help us be more knowledgeable and successful. However, it is an activity that many people don't engage in very much. According to the 1999 National Household Education Survey, 50% of the U.S. population aged 25 and over read a newspaper at least once a week, read one or more magazines regularly, and had read a book in the past 6 months.

What does this mean? It means that 50% of the population hasn't read a book in the last six months! Looking at the other end of the spectrum, research shows that if you read ten books a year, you are in the top few percent of all people as readers. Simply stated, it doesn't take much to be well read, but we do need to know how to get started.

The following are ten suggestions to help you strengthen your reading habit - ways to find and make more time for reading.

1. Always have a book around. Don't go anywhere without reading material. Keep magazines or short stories in your bathroom. Always have something in your briefcase to read. Keep a book(s) by your bed. Having things available makes it easier for you to steal otherwise lost moments.

2. Set a reading goal. Determine how much time you want to spend reading, or how many books you want to read over time. Your goal might be a book a month, one per week, or it might be to read 30 minutes a day. Start out with something attainable but still a stretch. As your habit builds, you might set higher goals. Setting a goal is the first step towards reading more.

3. Keep a log. Keep a list of the books you have read, or keep track of how much time you read each day. You might keep these lists in your journal or your day planner. My son's log is on our refrigerator. My list and log are kept on my computer. It doesn't matter where you keep it, just do it.

4. Keep a list. Make a list of things you want to read in the future. Ask your friends and colleagues what they are reading. Watch for recommendations in the newspaper and magazines. Once you start looking for good books, you'll find them everywhere. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm up. By knowing what great stuff you want to read, you will reinforce your reading habit.

5. Turn off the television. Many people say they just don't have enough time. Television is one of our major time consumers. Make your television watching more conscious and less habitual. There is nothing wrong with watching television shows you really enjoy. Where the time gets lost is turning it on, and scanning to find "something to watch." Those are the times to turn it off and pick up your book!

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6. Listen when you can't read. Use your commute and other time spent in the car to listen! There are great audio versions of all sorts of books. Whether you want to "read" fiction, the latest self-help or diet book, it is probably available on tape. Don't get locked into the idea that you have to read it - listening to the book still gives you the experience, ideas, and imagination that reading a book can.

7. Join a reading group or book club. Reading groups typically meet once a month to discuss a book they have all decided to read. Committing to the group provides a bit more impetus to finish the book, and gives you a great forum for discussion and socialization around the book's themes.

8. Visit the library or bookstore often. You have your list, right? So you'll have some ideas of what you are looking for when you walk in. But there is more to be gained by walking through places where books reside than just to make a transaction. Take time to browse! Let your eyes find things of interest. Let serendipity happen. Browsing will feed your mental need to read, and give you plenty of new things to read.

9. Build your own strategy. Decide when reading fits your schedule. Some people read first thing in the morning, some before bed. Some decide to read as they eat their lunch. And there is more to your strategy than just timing. Make your own decisions about reading. It is OK to be reading more than one book at once. It is OK to stop reading something before you finish if it isn't holding your interest. It is OK to skim the book, getting what you want or need, without reading every page. Determine what works best for you, develop your own beliefs and ideas--then make them work for you.

10. Drop Everything and Read. My son's fourth grade class has DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time. When the teacher calls for it, that's just what they do. They read now. That is my last piece of advice for you. Do it. Just get started. Make it DEAR time. Now.

The POWER of Reading

By L.J. Davis  

Reading to your child at a young age is one of the most effective tools for expanding his mind and instilling a lifelong love of learning. Reading a good book allows your child to travel to places she has never been, to meet people she has never met, and to develop an understanding of how to deal with a variety of physical and emotional situations.

Reading to your child also helps you develop an emotional connection. Whether you have her cuddle up in your lap, nestle with him while he is winding down for bed, or read to her while waiting for food in a restaurant, you are connecting. Reading to your child from an early age will also help him be successful in school. Reading out loud will help him learn language and become familiar with words. Reading is the foundation for developing an understanding of conceptual information and it sparks imagination!

Your child is never too young to be read to. Frankly, you should begin reading to your child while in the womb. During this time, use reading as a way of familiarizing the baby to your voice. If both parents take turns reading, it is even better. Imagine, before the baby is even born, the act of reading helps you connect and it can help parents reconnect with each other. When your child is born, the adventure begins. During the "easy" phase of infancy when your child is not physically able to explore his/her world, reading to your child helps him feel loved and comforted. Nestled in your arms with a favorite picture book, your baby will, at first, seem unaware of what is going on. But is she?

When my daughters were infants, I would read a series of picture books called the "Find The" board books by Stephen Cartwright. These books have lively illustrations, but no words. Guided by a series of images that included pictures of children and animals, each book asked children to find the piglet, the duck, the teddy, the puppy, the bird, or the kitten. When my daughters were very small, I would hold the book in front of them and while their heads wobbled about, I would ask, "Ceiley, where's the bird." Of course, there was no response, so I would point out where the bird was and, in doing so, I would describe the picture and put it into context. For several months, I would pull out the book and ask, "Where's the piglet!" One day, an interesting thing happened. When I asked the magical question, my daughter lifted a chubby finger and pointed to the piglet. Had she understood what I had been saying all along? I will probably never know but one thing is certain, before the age of one, she knew what a piglet was, what the word "find" meant, and she used her magnificent brain to tell her finger to point to the picture of the pig. All because I read a book. Her mind was indeed a blank slate upon which I could impress ideas and concepts.

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Reading to your child should become second nature. Anytime, anywhere is an opportunity to read to your child. During the hectic toddler days, books can be lifesavers in public places. If you have to stand in line at a bank, take a book bag along filled with engaging books that your child enjoys. Before they get fussy, take out a book and start reading. Yes, it is very difficult to read to your child while you are holding him and standing up at the same time! Instead, put her in a stroller and bend down. As you read to your child, you are using your time preciously. By bending down, you are coming down to his level. By reading, you are expanding her knowledge and growing neurons. Make your waiting time, his reading time! 

Reading while waiting also works well if you have several children with you. Although my daughters are 11 and 6, my oldest daughter will still lean over and read along to the book I am reading to my youngest, despite carrying along her own stash of Harry Potter and Manga books. The key is that, by making reading part of your child's everyday experiences, she will come to expect that reading is the norm.

If you are not a reader and do not enjoy reading, you have a great obstacle to overcome. If you do not enjoy reading and/or you were not brought up with reading in the home, it will be doubly difficult for you to get in the habit of reading. Please, don't let this stop you! The exciting thing about being human is that you can change anytime. Start slowly. Find a topic that interests you and start reading. Buy a bookcase and make it a goal to slowly fill it up with children's books, classics, or whatever else suits your fancy.

Read to your child. Engage his imagination. Don't assume that children read at a certain age. There are so many things that you can do to prepare them for the day when they start to decipher letters and words on their own. Lay the foundation early in life and your child will reap wonderful rewards.